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Empowered citizens make good tourism ambassadors — expert

A tourism expert has emphasized the need for a country’s citizens to be more empowered to make them better ambassadors of their country.

In day two of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) International Conference of Tourism Statistics on Thursday, Belgium’s VisitFlanders Research Project Manager Vincent Nijs presented a talk called “Learnings from ‘Resident Attitudes towards Tourism’ for Tourism City Management Activities”.

VisitFlanders, according to its website, is a tourist office that promotes tourism in Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium.

Nijs’ talk tackled how tourism has long been seen from the tourist’s point of view, when in fact members of tourism destination are just as important.

“Even the best destinations need supportive, happy and positive residents to convey the identity of the destinations in a positive way,” Nijs said.

Using as an example Belgium’s tourist destinations, the City of Bruges, Flanders, Nijs pointed out the need to empower citizens in order to boost the support for tourism.
“Empowered residents are better ambassadors, spokespersons of the city. The more residents feel empowered—proud, feel connected, are given a voice, are part of policy making and planning—the more they see positive impacts and less of the negative impacts of tourism activities,” Nijs said.

“The more they see positive impacts, the more they support tourism,” he added.

The three-day International Conference on Tourism Statistics was held from June 21 to 23 at the Marriott Hotel in Manila.

The conference served as a venue to discuss policy initiatives on the importance of developing a statistical framework to measure sustainable tourism worldwide.

It was attended by around 1,000 delegates including officials from over 80 countries.

After the conference, delegates will be joining a familiarization tour to either Pampanga’s Mt. Pinatubo or Tagaytay’s Taal Lake and Volcano.

Azer N. Parrocha/PNA